In Search of Goliathus Hercules

Jennifer Angus. Albert Whitman, $17.99 (350p) ISBN 978-0-8075-2990-4
Roald Dahl meets Franz Kafka in this charming and unpredictable debut novel, which is set in the 1890s. While staying with his eccentric great-aunt in America, 10-year-old British boy Henri Bell discovers that he can communicate with insects. He soon parlays this ability into a job as a flea wrangler with a circus, leaving his great-aunt’s home to see the world—and attempt to discover the fate of his father. Three years earlier, George Bell mysteriously vanished in the jungles of British Malaya while hunting the legendary giant beetle known as Goliathus hercules. At every turn, Henri is stalked by the malevolent Agatha Black, who revels in torturing insects; furthermore, Henri appears to be turning into an insect himself. Angus, a visual artist who extensively uses insects in her work, breathes life into her characters (both six- and two-legged) and color into her Victorian-era world, giving the story a sense of wonder and an air of danger. With respect and clever characterization, she makes fleas and other creepy-crawlies downright sympathetic, leaving readers to rethink their relationship with the insect world. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/14/2013
Release date: 03/01/2013
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